For 19 years, the Lakeland Role Playing Guild (Lakeland RPG) has fostered a gamer community giving them an outlet for their hobby.
An idea sprouted and blossomed in the mind of Lakeland RPG founder Nick Cardarelli during the Spring of 2000. He slowly began building a structure around his idea and was ready by September of that year for the group’s first meeting. About twelve people in total, in the small community room of his apartment complex, the Lakeland RPG was born.
“Our primary focus has always been to try to forge a community amongst the heavy gamers in the area,” said Guild Master and Club Officer Scott Presley who was one of the first people Nick came to with his idea.
Almost two decades later, the group hosts bi-monthly events in which participants can play their favorite RPG (Role Playing Game), board, card, or miniature game. Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular of the RPG’s they play, but they also play Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Fate, Star Wars, d20, World of Darkness, and Dungeon Crawl Classics to name a few.
Board games of the “geek-centric” variety like Ticket to Ride, Carcasonne, Pandemic, Settlers of Catan, and Mice & Mystics, Twilight Imperium, Betrayal of Baldur’s Gate, and Star Wars themed games are also played.
Many D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) players have home groups in which they play amongst a group of friends on a consistent basis. The Lakeland RPG differs in their approach to gaming. “We have a larger targeted goal than simply to have fun. Having fun is the root of the hobby most certainly, but our driving focus is to forge the community and improve the quality of the hobby for the participants and to improve the awareness of different aspects of the hobby,” said Scott.
The guild makes it a point to try out different games and rule systems and hold educational seminars on topics like creating a compelling encounter or how to tell a better story at the game table.
Lakeland RPG has a core membership with annual dues that include access to all of their events, their website and other insularly things that happen periodically with the club. They also welcome visitors to check them out. At the moment, they have about 30 paid members and range between 28 to 34 in attendance at their events. There are three original members still active in the guild.
With a niche hobby like RPG’s, the outlet that the guild provides its members is invaluable. Club Officer and Guild Liaison who is in his fifth year as a member, Joe Giera expressed this, remarking, “I know for me, it was a chance to meet all these people that are playing together. I used to just play with my brothers and it got to the point that we needed more people to play with.”
Joe found out about the group online and played a board game with them on a night with about 15 members, what used to be considered a heavy night for them. Now, Joe has made friends and acquaintances and is in numerous home tables. “Every group that I play with has at least one person that I met through the guild in it,” he said.
Four-year member, Eric Lyons, added, “There’s just something really nice about being around people that like the same things you like.” He didn’t play D&D as a kid, and when he got older and wanted to take up the hobby, he didn’t know anyone who played. He read a newspaper story about the guild and has been a member ever since.
Eric continued, “The other thing for me is that these days, it’s so easy to not connect with people so it’s really cool to have a regular time where you sit around a table and hang out with people face to face. Community is the main thing.”
A community that is often misunderstood, the guild had a few misconceptions to address. “I think the biggest misconception is that it’s hard. People think of a bunch of nerds around a table with papers doing math. You barely have to look at your character sheet, it’s more about telling a story together,” said Eric, adding, “There’s no barrier to entry. As long as you can imagine things, you’re good to go.”
Joe agreed, expressing that as long you can embrace your inner-nerd and allow yourself to have fun and be silly at times, you can get over any trepidation you have about playing.
“Some of us are less introverted than others, but overall, the hobby has a predominance of introverts and this is our safe way of projecting,” said Scott. He joked that anyone came take up RPG’s because, “Everyone knows how to role play because everyone has a job and everyone has been to a family holiday dinner.”
Scott finished, “The entire point of the hobby in general and specifically very much one of the building foundations of the guild was if we’re going to forge a community, that we are open and welcoming to everyone.”
Grab your dice or cards or board game Lakeland, take up a new hobby, and make a new friend or two!
Lakeland Role Playing Guild
When:2nd and 4th Friday nights of every month 7pm – 11:30pm
Where: Unitarian Universalist
Congregation of Lakeland
3140 Troy Ave, Lakeland, FL 33803